I made the statement yesterday that the Bible is a human document, and that probably upset a few more conservative readers.
If that was you, I can understand being disturbed. Many of us who grew up in evangelical or fundamentalist camps know the mantra when referring to Scripture, “God said it … that settles it.” The notion is that we could point to the black words on the white page as if they came from God’s own pen in plain American English (or perhaps pure Elizabethan English, depending).
Peter Enns, Old Testament scholar at Eastern University, makes a terrific point about the nature of Scripture in the introduction to his new book. He too discusses the “human dimension” of the Bible, which he writes,
is not an unfortunate state of affairs that must be tolerated, an unhappy condescension on God’s part. Instead, the “incarnational” reality of Scripture is – as is the actual incarnation of Christ – a mark of God’s great love for his people, evidence of how low he is willing to stoop in order to commune with his creation. … We should expect of Scripture the same sort of embrace of the human that Jesus himself willingly took on, even to the point of emptying himself of his divine prerogative and becoming our brother (Phil. 2:6-8). (xii)
Theologians like to discuss the condescension inherent in the incarnation, and rightly so. We are not on the same level as the Creator. No question. But to discuss God’s dealings with humanity as though it were some great inconvenience for the Lord to even speak in human terms is to discuss a deity foreign to the Bible. No, such is a Greek or Roman god, not the Yahweh of Scripture.
Remember, it is Yahweh who set the man and woman on the earth to govern it on his behalf. People have a pretty high value in God’s estimation.
So perhaps, as we suggest that the Bible is a thoroughly human set of documents, this is not such a slam on the Bible itself, or on God. Perhaps this is precisely within the very character of the God who has, from the very start, chosen to work through people to accomplish his purposes at every stage. There is no plan B, as they say.